As you know, Wahconah Regional High School takes great pride in acknowledging student success. Our students work very hard and they pursue their interests with passion, so it’s only appropriate to recognize their accomplishments in a variety of ways and in multiple forums. One current and traditional method of recognition occurs at our annual graduation ceremony, where the two students who have earned the highest grade point averages (GPA) over the course of four years are identified as the valedictorian and salutatorian. Our school remains committed to that tradition. However, the practice of tabulating and publicizing “class rank” has been a topic of discussion among many school communities across the state and the nation as a whole. Currently at Wahconah, class rank is tabulated at the conclusion of every school year and reported on each student’s 4th quarter report card. Consequently, in a class of 130 students, one student goes home for the summer with a rank of 1 on their report card and another student goes home for the summer with a rank of 130 on their report card. As such, we have increasing concerns about the impact rank has on those students who chronically struggle in school.
We set out to research this issue to inform our own practice of calculating and reporting class rank. As research on this particular topic was conducted and other schools across the state were surveyed, it became readily apparent that many schools are moving away from this practice. Below is a brief list of reasons that were shared by other institutions, that were taken from literature, and were identified as existing within our own school’s culture.
- Often, the GPA difference between the top 5-10 students is negligible.
- A student with a 90 GPA could conceivably be ranked 40th in the class, thus inhibiting his/her chance of gaining acceptance to top tier colleges.
- Sometimes students are less collaborative and excessively competitive in the quest to attain higher class rank.
- Sometimes students select courses based on potential class rank impact rather than on their personal interests.
- An increasing number of colleges and universities no longer place significant value on class rank during the admissions process.
- Many of the highest performing schools in the state have not been reporting class rank for many years.
- Ranking students is an archaic batching practice that forces students to compare themselves to others as opposed to focusing on being the best version of themselves and learning for learning’s sake.
The results of this research caused us to question our own school’s current practice of reporting class rank. That discussion took place among our administration, our Curriculum Coordinators, and our Guidance Department. After seeking input from the Wahconah faculty, a collective decision was made to propose the elimination of the reporting of class rank to Superintendent Laurie Casna as well as the CBRSD Curriculum Sub-Committee. The Curriculum Sub-Committee voted unanimously to eliminate the reporting of class rank at Wahconah and the vast majority of the CBRSD School Committee voted in favor as well.
We reached this determination with the understanding that our current Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors have already seen their class rank. In the case of many Seniors, it’s already been reported to their prospective colleges and universities. Therefore, the final determination was to conduct a class rank “phase out” at Wahconah. Here is the plan:
- Class rank will continue to be reported to current Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors (via report cards and transcripts). These students will be aware of their class rank for the remainder of their academic careers at Wahconah.
- Class rank will not be reported to current 9th graders and all students in the incoming classes behind them.
- Class rank will be calculated for internal purposes only (i.e. scholarships).
- A Valedictorian and Salutatorian will still be determined and recognized at graduation.
- Grade point average (GPA) will still be calculated and reported on student report cards.
Ultimately, we want what is best for our students. Based on a significant amount of the feedback we received, we anticipate this change will actually put our students in a better position during the college admissions process. Furthermore, a change in this practice marks yet another move away from labeling students for the sake of labeling.